We’re often asked by clients whether they can use notable words or phrases, like “Muggles” in their business without infringing on copyright or trademark. If these words have been trademarked, the simple answer is no.
As we know, trademarks are a tool that most companies, big or small, strive for and rightly so. Successful businesses are often underpinned by their brands, like “Just Do It” for Nike, “Have a Break” for KitKat and Skittles’ famous “Taste the Rainbow”. This places restrictions on business owners who want those words and phrases in their designs or generally throughout their business, such as their social media posts.
For those Harry Potter fans out there, it’s important to know that “muggles” is trademarked by Warner Bros across loads of classes, along with various other words, themes, and even characters including “Dementor”, “Sirius Black”, “Hogsmeade”, and “Gryffindor”.
Large corporations will want to register their trademarks in as many classes as possible. For instance, “Muggles” is registered in class 25. This means that no one else can use the word on an item of clothing without infringing on Warner Bros’s trademark, whether it is just the word or in a sentence. However, many people will go ahead and do it anyway, risking their chances that Warner Bros may send a cease and desist letter. Of course, we can’t estimate the likelihood of this, and it’s entirely an individual’s choice whether they choose to take this risk.
To give another example, Specsavers delved into the territory of intellectual property and registered “should’ve and “shouldve” as trademarks. These were (surprisingly) approved by the UK Intellectual Property Office, despite the fact that this is too generic and completely unregistrable. We can probably infer from this is Specsavers have very deep pockets to spend on a legal team to assert their claims that their trademark has acquired distinctiveness in the marketplace so as to be able to claim the word as their own.
By registering these words, Specsavers have a monopoly over their use. No one else can use it in the classes it’s registered in without infringing on their trademark.
All this does is reiterate the importance of brand protection and so our message for you is if you’re thinking about your trademark – Just Do It!